Government ‘Solutions Exchange’ tool to help SMEs
The government has introduced a pilot of its online ‘Solutions Exchange’ tool, which will enable SMEs to connect with government and find out about potential ways to sell to the public sector or to pitch an innovative business idea.
The new service will allow the government to engage the market informally before any formal procurement processes have started. It will give suppliers, particularly contractors with their own small businesses, a quick, free of charge way to pitch innovative ideas to save money and improve public services.
The usual route of tendering for government business in the UK can be a lengthy and expensive process for contractors with their own limited companies and other small business owners.
The tool works as an interactive online forum that will help contractors with their own businesses to communicate with government procurers.
It is divided into ‘challenges’ and ‘themes’ which will change every three months, however, the content will stay on the site as a searchable database for procurers looking to reach out to new companies.
‘Challenges’ are emerging opportunities to work with Government that are not yet at the formal procurement stage, for example:
- Identity and Passport Service Facial Recognition System
- Contracts Finder data
Whereas ‘themes’ are broader categories that allow suppliers to pitch their own innovative, cost saving, proposals direct to government, which include:
- Use of data from government IT functions
- Evaluation of government communication.
Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, who launched the new venture, said, “I’ve heard time and time again from small companies that one of the hardest things about winning Government contracts is breaking into Government in the first place – it can feel like Whitehall is full of faceless procurers who are unaware of what smaller firms can offer.
“We are turning that around and Solutions Exchange offers an easy, informal way for smaller firms to find out about emerging opportunities and pitch ideas. For Government it’s a new way to find out what the market has to offer in advance so that we can speed up formal procurement times.
“We want to get feedback from SMEs on this initial pilot as we develop the service.”